José Arpa y Perea, painter, son of Antonio and María de García Perea Arpa, was born in Carmona, Spain, on February 19, 1858. He studied in the School of Fine Arts in Seville, where he received special instruction from the historical painter Eduardo Cano de la Peña. While in school he received the Rome Prize three successive times; the award gave him six years of study in Rome. He was already well known in Europe when the Spanish government sent four of his paintings to the World's Fair at Chicago in 1893. Because of the recognition given his work in Spain and in the United States, the Mexican government invited him to become the director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Mexico City; they sent a man-of-war to Spain to escort the artist to Mexico. Arpa declined the position, but he did stay in Mexico to paint.
Later he traveled to San Antonio, where his painting A Mexican Funeral, exhibited at the International Fair, brought him to the attention of Texans. Arpa remained in that city for many years of painting and teaching. His assistant and one of his students was Xavier Gonzales; he also taught painting to Octavio Medellín in 1921 and influenced the work of Porfirio Salinas. Arpa was a brilliant colorist, and his skill in handling sunlight earned him the nickname "Sunshine Man." His style was realistic; his loose, fluid brushwork evoked a sense of atmosphere.
His work was exhibited in the principal galleries of the United States. The San Antonio Museum Association has ten of his paintings in its collection. Arpa participated in the Texas Wildflower Oil Painting contests held by the San Antonio Art League, and in 1927 he won the state prize of $1,000 for Verbena, which is now owned by the league. In 1952 murals by Arpa were hung in the lobby of the Express Publishing Company of San Antonio. Arpa died in Seville, Spain, in October 1952, at the age of ninety-four.